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Two Goalkeeper Sessions

By Philip Cauchi

In this article we will go through the key points learned by observing Sevilla FC’s goalkeeper Yassine Bounou against FC Barcelona in first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final played on Wednesday 10th of February 2021. Following this brief analysis are two practices that target the development of goalkeeping soccer-related actions timed and performed according to the necessity of the situation.

Griezmann is outside the penalty area with the ball and has space to lob it behind the back line and towards the second post for Messi to finish on goal. As we can see from the above image the goalkeeper’s position is on the imaginary line (dotted line) between the ball and the middle of the goal. The goalkeeper’s stance is low, on the balls of feet, with the arms in front and on the side of the body while the body is slightly inclined forward.

Griezmann lobs the ball to Messi to finish on goal. The goalkeeper moves to cover the angle using quick lateral footwork. His is still on the imaginary line between the ball and the middle of the goal.

As Messi is going to shoot, the goalkeeper makes a few steps forward, making himself big so to narrow the angle for Messi.

The goalkeeper remained on his feet until the last moment. The arms and legs were also used to stretch the goalkeeper’s ability to cover more area of the goal .

The goalkeeper making himself big to reduce the shooting angle.

Practice 1: Close down the angle

Setup: Three starting points are marked with one being central and at the edge of the penalty area, while another starting point is marked at each side of the penalty area. Therefore having three different angles. A gate measuring approximately three yards is positioned a few yards in front of the goal (as shown in the above image) and on the imaginary line between the respective starting point and the middle of the goal. The starting point should be a few yards in front of the respective gate.

Procedure: The coach calls one of the three players positioned at their respective starting point to dribble forward. The goalkeeper must protect the respective gate from the player’s shoot. If the goalkeeper covers the gate well it means that the ball cannot end up in the back of the net.

Key outcomes:
1. The goalkeeper comes out of the goal as the player is dribbling towards the goal.
2. The goalkeeper makes a forward explosive movement to cut off the angle at the moment the player drops his head to shoot at goal.

1. The player with the ball can shoot from various distances.
2. The player with the ball can change his dribbling trajectory to move to a different angle.
3. The player with the ball can opt to go on one-one-one with the goalkeeper.

Practice 2: 3v2+GK play the ball behind the back line.

Setup: An area measuring 10 by 18 yards is marked at the edge of the penalty area. The sides of this area are extended till the goal line. At the end of the area two mini goals are positioned. Three attackers and two defenders start in this area while a goalkeeper is positioned in goal.

Procedure: The attackers start against the defenders in a 3v2. The attackers must pass the ball into the penalty area to finish on goal. The attacker receiving the pass must finish with a first time shot.

Key outcomes:
1. The goalkeeper comes out to take the ball or block shots for passes that are played deep.
2. The goalkeeper remains in his position but moves to reduce the shooting angle for the attacker in cases where he cannot get to the ball.
3. The goalkeeper must always be on the imaginary line between the ball and the middle of the goal.

Progression: The attacker receiving the ball can decide not to shoot first time and to also try to go around the goalkeeper.

In the above image, the defender is applying pressure on the ball-carrier. The goalkeeper therefore remains on his feet and move accordingly to close down the shooting angle.

By Philip Cauchi

Goalkeeper Communication On Crosses

By Philip Cauchi

Introduction: Dealing with crosses is often a major headache for goalkeepers. This holds true when playing against opponents whose strengths lie in this aspect of the game.

Dealing with crosses is a cohesive team effort. First we aim to eliminate or reduce as much as we can the opponents’ strength of getting the opportunities to play crosses. Secondly if the cross is played we should have our centre backs marking their target players and dealing with the cross effectively. The goalkeeper should be the one who continuously communicates with his back line all the time during this period, making sure that the target players are properly marked to reduce their ability to deal with the cross effectively. Communication should be developed throughout the season and refined during the week according to the opposition we are going to face.

Goalkeeping technique cues:

Figure 1 – The goalkeeper should all the time keep his eyes on the ball and be confident of getting to it first.

1. Before the cross is played the goalkeeper should be turned towards the position from where the cross is played.
2. The goalkeeper should attack the ball explosively.
3. Take-off should be done by pushing off the ball of the inside foot while the outside leg is used to protect the goalkeeper when airborne.
4. The shape of the goalkeeper’s hands should be W while the arms are stretched to meet the ball. The goalkeeper is the only player from all the twenty two who is allowed to use his hands inside his team’s penalty area.
5. If the ball seems to be difficult to catch, the goalkeeper should punch it towards the side lines where the chances of the opponents winning second balls in dangerous zones is reduced.

Figure 2 – The goalkeeper should be focused and all the time communicating with his teammates. The word “keeper” should be used by the goalkeeper to let his teammates know that it is his ball.

Training tips:
1. Always make training realistic to what happens during the game. Isolated training to refine technique, coordination and power are good but they serve to nothing if the goalkeeper doesn’t learn how to anticipate situations and communicate with teammates.
2. Whenever possible always have some kind of active opposition with defensive collaboration. The last strengthens the communication between the goalkeeper and the centre backs who are the players who will be put under pressure the most in these situations.
3. Vary the resistance. It can be that the goalkeeper has to face only one forward, two forwards or three forwards.
4. Vary the angle from where crosses are played.
5. Vary the distribution. The goalkeeper should learn to deal with both in-swinging and out-swinging crosses and crosses played onto the first, mid, and second posts
6. Have unpredictability in training! Create situations where the opponents can play both crosses, dribble inside with the ball or play cut back passes.

Goalkeeper positioning during crosses:
Before the opponents are able to play a cross, the goalkeeper should be positioned where he can have a very good vision of both the ball and the crosser as well as his teammates and opponents. The ideal position when the cross is played from deep as in the below picture is for the goalkeeper to be centrally in line with the midline of the goal and a few feet in front of the goal line. This position gives him enough space and time to get to the ball. It is imperative also to mention that the defense will not be too deep as this will restrict the space that the goalkeeper has to attack the ball.

Figure 3 – The goalkeeper’s position should enable him to have a good view of the ball, teammates and opponents.

The stance that the goalkeeper takes might prove to be the decisive factor in such situations. As seen in the image below, the goalkeeper’s position will enable him to get to the ball quickly and cover both the first post, mid post and second post areas. The goalkeeper should have a low centre of gravity with the weight of the body on the balls of feet.

Figure 4 – The first post (A), mid post (B) and second post areas (C) are well covered by the goalkeeper.

Timing the interception of the cross.

We have two servers on both flanks. One of them is positioned at a deeper position than the other. The one closest to the goal line plays out-swinging crosses while the other plays in-swinging crosses. Upon catching the ball the goalkeeper makes a few steps with it prior to serving it to one of the two servers on the opposite flank. We can progress the practice by placing mannequins where the goalkeeper is overloaded in taking the correct approach to attack the ball.

Dealing with in-swinging crosses played from deep positions.

In this practice we have a server on both sides who are positioned wide and higher than the edge of the penalty area. In the centre in front of the penalty area we have two centre backs lined up against two forwards and a goalkeeper. One of the servers plays an in-swinging cross for the goalkeeper to come out and deal with together with the help of the centre backs. Two mini goals can also be positioned for the defending team to attack should they win the ball. However in this practice if the defending team wins the ball they aim to play it quickly to the opposite server as if to launch a quick counter attack from the opponents’ weaker side. To overload this practice we can have the server playing crosses from various positions or by dribbling towards the goal line and playing cut back passes. We can also overload by adding another forward which further conditions us to be more precise on intercepting the ball. This will indeed require very good communication between the goalkeeper and the centre backs.

Dealing with in-swinging crosses played from deep positions.

We move on to more complex but more realistic contexts where communication between the goalkeeper and his teammates and the decision-making abilities of the players are to be further developed. In the situation above the full back (3) passes to the winger (11) and overlaps him to receive the return pass to play the cross. The practice is then repeated on the opposite flank. After a few repetitions we should build towards a higher level context which is closer to the realism and requirements of the game and especially of what is expected from our next opponent. Now we can have the winger either returning the ball to the full back to play the cross or himself cutting inside with the ball to take the shot or combine play with teammates inside the penalty area. The full back can also advance towards the goal line and play a cut back pass. The more we practice in situations where the goalkeeper and the defenders are faced with various situations the more we develop communication and this will lead to better decision-making and interceptions of the ball in the game.

By Philip Cauchi

Quick Footwork With Reactions

By Philip Cauchi

Aim: Getting quickly into position to make the save.

Key points:
1. Quick short side-steps.
2. Weight on the balls of the feet.
3. The weight of the body inclined slightly forward.
4. Leg cross-over technique to quickly get into position.
5. Arms to the side and in front of the body.

Practice: Shooting with three goals.

Organization: This practice takes place inside the penalty area and is divided into two parts. The first part consists of a series of cones positioned in a line and a shot rebound wall placed in front and ten yards away from the last cone. A server with a large supply of balls is positioned to the side of this setup. In the second part of this setup we have a server with a supply of balls on the edge of the penalty area and a thick pipe placed horizontally just in front of the goal area.

The goalkeeper perform quick side steps prior to saving the shot from the server which is deflected off the rebound wall. When side-stepping the goalkeeper should make the first step with the leading foot and not the trailing foot. This helps the goalkeeper to maintain the much needed centre of gravity. Make sure that the weight of the goalkeeper’s body is slightly inclined forward and on the balls of feet. The goalkeeper should have her arms placed in front and to the sides of the body ready to perform the save. The server should kick the ball immediately after the goalkeeper gets past the last cone.

Immediately the goalkeeper gets into position to save the first shot to be taken by the other server. The goalkeeper should make use of the foot cross-over technique to be more rapid. For the cross-over the goalkeeper should push off the leading foot and then the trailing foot crosses over it. The cross-over technique is the ideal way of moving laterally fast while keeping the ball in the goalkeeper’s field of vision.

After the goalkeeper saves the first shot, the server kicks the ball hard along the ground. The ball will be lobbed into the air as it is deflected off the pipe. The goalkeeper must quickly react to the unpredictable trajectory that the ball takes.

To make the practice more game realistic, the second server may herself decides if the shot is to be deflected off the pipe or just goes straight on goal. Furthermore, two mini goals may be positioned outside the penalty area. When the goalkeeper makes a save, she throws the ball into any of these two mini goals as if to launch a quick counter attack.

By Philip Cauchi

Dealing With Pressure From Back Passes

By Philip Cauchi

Introduction: The modern game requires the goalkeeper to be more active in the offensive organization and offensive transition phases of the game. It is therefore of no coincidence that goalkeepers need to be good and very confident with the ball at their feet while under pressure from the opponents who try as much as possible to restrict their time and space to play the ball.

Most of the time the goalkeeper is the first attacker who sets the momentum forward for the team in the first stage of the build-up. Goalkeepers should be very good communicators who continuously organise their team and support teammates during the initial part of the attack construction. Communication is not only verbal! The goalkeeper’s position sends information to his teammates that he is in a good position to support his teammates and to which foot he asks the ball to be played to.

Figure 1 – The goalkeeper’s position sends information to the central defender that he is free to receive the back pass.

Communication plays a huge role for the goalkeeper when dealing with back passes. It starts the moment an outfield player is in possession of the ball. The goalkeeper should move into an open position where he can receive the ball. Training should absolutely include the communication between the goalkeeper and his teammates, especially those who play at a close proximity with him. The practices must also resemble as close as possible the global game, taking into consideration the way that the opponents play and their pressing characteristics on back passes. Do they press with one, two or three players? Which spaces do they leave free? Where do their strengths and weaknesses lie? Are our centre backs and central midfielders confident with playing the ball under pressure and therefore supporting the goalkeeper?

Figure 2 – It is very important to know how the opponents press to condition our build-up.

Having a goalkeeper who is confident and able to play with the feet gives the team more options in the build-up and therefore more confidence.

Figure 3 – Communication at the highest level to get out of high pressing situations.

Practice: Two zone build-up game

Figure 4 – The goalkeeper should continuously communicate with the two centre backs.

This game is about developing the necessary communication between the goalkeeper, the back line and the central midfield players. These are the three units of the team that will be involved the most during the first stage of the build-up.

Organization: One team composed of a goalkeeper, two central defenders and two central midfielders, while the opposite team is composed of two forwards and two central midfielders. Two neutral flank players play with the team in possession of the ball.

Description of practice: The attacking team (the blacks and the team that we are coaching) starts play in zone 2. The attacking team’s aim is to score in any of the three mini goals. They are aided by the two neutral flank players. If the attacking team cannot score within thirty seconds the ball must be played back to the goalkeeper and the attack is restarted. Here is where we can differentiate the way to overload our build-up. In the below diagram we are simulating the build-up against a team that leaves one forward up and three midfielders further back and positioned centrally. In this case the attacking team is asked to drop only the two centre backs as only one forward moves into zone 1.

Figure 5 – Creating a 3v1 at the back.

The key points to focus on here are:
1. The angle the goalkeeper is forming with the two centre backs and especially with the one with the ball.
2. The timing and direction of the back pass (to the side away from pressure and where the goalkeeper can play the next pass).
3. The speed of passes.
4. The new position the center backs take (angle and distance from the goalkeeper) to support the goalkeeper when the latter receives the ball.

When the goalkeeper plays the ball to any of the two centre backs – or any other player in this case – the other players must quickly move to adjust their position to support the player on the ball with the sole intention of playing forward. However, the goalkeeper’s job is far from done. He should retain his position and also to move according to the necessities to offer support to his teammate on the ball. The goalkeeper should again be ready to receive a back pass to either play forward or switch the point of attack.

Figure 6 – The goalkeeper should quickly recognise what the options to play forward are and where they exist.

The key points to focus on here are:
1. The angle and distance of the goalkeeper with the two centre backs.
2. The distance the goalkeeper has with the forward applying pressure on the ball.
3. The position of the farthest teammates (midfielders) to stretch the opponents and create space to open up options centrally.

To further overload the build-up we can also introduce a time constraint where the goalkeeper’s team has to quickly play the ball into zone 2 in ten seconds or less. When the ball is played into zone 2 all the players except the goalkeeper move into this zone. Play always starts from the goalkeeper’s team in zone 2 even if a goal by his team is scored.

Figure 7 – Building play from the back against two forwards applying pressure. The shaded area is the target key space where we aim to play the ball either through the forwards or around them if the option to play directly to midfielder 8 does not exist.

By Philip Cauchi

Visual Quick Reactions

By Philip Cauchi

Title: Reacting quickly to visual stimuli.

Aim: To develop quick reflections specifically for goalkeepers.

Key points:
1. Ready stance in goal.
2. Focus on the position of the ball.
3. Look at the hips of the attacker to anticipate where the shot is aimed.

Practice: Shooting with three goals.

Preparation: Three goalposts made with poles are positioned as shown in the above image. The goalposts should three yards from each other. Fifteen yards in front of the central goal is a gate marked using two markers. A few yards behind this gate is the starting point from where the attackers start their dribble.

Description of practice: The attackers start dribbling the ball forward before shooting in any of the three goals. Shots must be taken from inside the marked gate.

Progression: The attacker first dribbles the ball to shoot on any of the three goals and then immediately receives a pass from the next player in line to finish on the same or a different goal.

Practice: 1v1 on three goals with goalkeepers.

Preparation: The practice area is divided into two zones. The first zone measures fifteen yards by twenty yards. The second zone measures ten yards by twenty yards. Three goalposts that can be made of poles are positioned as shown in the diagram above. A goalkeeper is positioned in each goal while two lines of players are positioned at the end line and approximately twelve yards from each other. All the players have a ball.

Description of practice: A defender from one of the two groups starts from the middle of the first zone. A player from the other group dribbles forward to get past the defender with the intention of shooting on any of the three goals. After the attack is over, the attacking player remains on the pitch to defend against the attacker from the opposite team.

Progression: Play 2v2 and then 3v3. This should make the practice more complex and unpredictable, especially for the goalkeepers.

Practice: Quick reaction shooting with three goals.

Preparation: The practice area is thirty yards by thirty yards. Three goals are positioned as shown in the image above. Two servers are positioned at different angles from each other. An inner ten yards by ten yards shooting area is marked at the end of the larger area opposite the goal in the middle.

Description of practice: Servers take turns passing the ball to the player inside the shooting area to finish on any of the three goals. Four consecutive balls are to be served and then the player inside the shooting area switches places with one of the servers.

Progression: The player inside the shooting area can decide to go 1v1 against the goalkeeper.

By Philip Cauchi

Training for Defending Crosses

By Philip Cauchi

Title: Defending crosses.

Aim: To develop the communication between the goalkeeper and the two central defenders when dealing with crosses.

Key points:
1. Ready stance in goal.
2. Distance between the goalkeeper and the two central defenders.
3. The goalkeeper needs to communicate continuously with the team and especially the central defenders to keep the shape and mark potential target players from the cross.

Game situation: GK+4 v GK+4 + 2 neutral flank players.

Preparation: The area should measure 40 yards in length and 50 yards in width. Two goalposts are positioned 40 yards apart on each goal line and facing each other. The two teams play in a 1-2-2 formation. A neutral player is positioned on each flank to act as wingers.

Execution: Normal game with positional reference. Goals that come from crosses count twice. All restarts take place from the goalkeeper of the team in possession.

Progression: The neutral flank players may dribble towards the inside and take shots on goal. The crosses may also be played by a player who overlaps the flank player.

Dealing with crosses functional practice: 2v2+GK defend the cross.

Preparation: The same area as in the game is used. However two flank channels each ten yards in width are marked. On each flank there are two players (A1 and A2 on the right flank and B1 and B2 on the left flank) who are positioned at an angle with each other as shown in the diagram above. In the centre there are two forwards, two central defenders and a goalkeeper. If the defending team (central defenders and goalkeeper) wins the ball they counter on the goal defended by the attacking team.

Execution: The players on the flank combine with each other as shown in the diagram above. A1 passes to A2, overlaps her to receive the ball in space and play a cross to the two forwards to conclude on goal while being pressured by the two central defenders and the goalkeeper.

1. Instead of passing the ball to the overlapping player, the flank players can dribble towards the inside and take a shot or search for combinations with the forwards. Taking the example in the diagram, A2 dribbles diagonally towards the inside instead of playing the ball to the overlapping player A1.
2. Instead of delivering a cross, the overlapping player can play a cut back pass.

By Philip Cauchi

Training Quick Reaction and Shot Stopping

By Philip Cauchi

Title: Guess who’s going to shoot!

Aim: To develop goalkeeping quick reactions and shot stopping techniques.

Key points:
1. Ready stance with the weight on the balls of the feet.
2. When turning always have your hands in front of the body.
3. Body weight slightly forward with the knees bent.

Preparation: Three servers with a ball each. The goalkeeper in the middle of the goal facing backward.

Description: On the coach’s call, the goalkeeper turns and quickly gets into a ready stance to save the shot. The three servers decide among themselves who will kick the ball. The goalkeeper should not know beforehand who the kicker will be.

1. The kickers pass the ball along the ground instead of kicking the ball hard. This is especially important with younger goalkeepers when working on using the correct technique.
2. The kickers lob the ball for the goalkeeper to practice handling high shots.
3. The kickers always shoot straight at the goalkeeper.

1. Shots may be played both on the ground and in the air.
2. Two shots are taken in sequential order with the second shot to be taken approximately three seconds after the first one. Both the first and the second shots are to remain unknown by the goalkeeper until they are taken.

By Philip Cauchi

How to Train Quick Reaction Saves

By Philip Cauchi

Title: Combined plyometric and reaction saves.

Aim: To apply the proper mechanics of saving a shot after landing from a jump.

Key points:
1. After landing, the foot to the side of the dive should be placed diagonally forward towards the side of the dive prior to making the save.
2. When making the save the hands should be placed in the horizontal line in front of the legs.

Practice: Receive the ball to score in the mini goals.

Preparation: Three hurdles in front of the goal. The goalkeeper coach positions herself ten meters in front of the hurdles with a supply of balls.

Description: The goalkeeper makes three consecutive jumps before diving to make the safe from the goalkeeper coach’s shot.

1. The goalkeeper jumps laterally prior to making the save.
2. Combine jumping laterally and forward prior to making the save.
3. Differ the height of the hurdles according to the abilities of the goalkeeper.
4. The goalkeeper saves both low and high shots.

1. The goalkeeper saves random shots that can be aimed both low and high.
2. Two or three servers are positioned ten meters in front of the last hurdle. The goalkeeper saves these shots in sequential order.
3. The three servers mentioned in progression two are all positioned at different distances from the final hurdle.

4. Three servers are positioned as indicated in the below diagram. The goalkeeper catches the first shot after making the three consecutive forward jumps.

Then moves into position to save the diagonal shot from the server as called by the coach.

By Philip Cauchi